Contributing about one-fourth of the country's GDP and about one-third of foreign trade and investment, the Yangtze River Delta region in east China is a land of opportunity for investors and enterprises from all around the world.
Covering a 358,000-square-km expanse, about the size of Germany, the region consists of Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui with a total population of about 220 million.
Hot destination for foreign investment
Despite the impact of COVID-19, foreign enterprises are ramping up investment in the region.
With 892 newly approved foreign-invested projects from January to April, Jiangsu Province led the country in the actual use of foreign capital with 10.37 billion U.S. dollars posted in the period, up 5.7 percent year on year. The figures in Shanghai and Zhejiang reached 6.46 billion U.S. dollars and 4.96 billion U.S. dollars, respectively.
German carmaker Volkswagen has announced plans to invest 2.1 billion euros (about 2.3 billion U.S. dollars) in China to develop its electric vehicle business in the country.
With an investment of 1 billion euros, Volkswagen will acquire 50 percent of JAG, the parent company of Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Corp., Ltd. (JAC Motors), and increase its stake in JAC Volkswagen to 75 percent, according to the agreement signed in Beijing on May 29.
Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen AG, said the company, together with strong and reliable partners, is strengthening its electrification strategy in China. Its electric car business is growing rapidly and offers a great deal of potential for JAC Volkswagen.
By opening its market, China is offering Volkswagen new business opportunities, said Stephan Wollenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China.
China's huge market and the Chinese government's quick and effective actions during the COVID-19 epidemic gave foreign investors confidence, said Sugimoto Takayuki, general manager of Nidec Shibaura (Zhejiang) Co., Ltd., who has been working in China for two years.
"The region has unique advantages in attracting foreign investment," said Wen Jianning, associate professor of Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance.
Attractive business environment
"Hangzhou and Shanghai are very flexible cities. Not only citizens are flexible, policymakers here are also open-minded, providing as much convenience for local companies and foreign investors as possible," said Lauri Tammi, a Finnish entrepreneur.
Tammi has lived in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, for eight years, offering policy advice to entrepreneurs from Finland and other countries. Now his business has expanded to Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing and other cities in the region.
Local governments in the cities learn from each other and compete to provide enterprises with good services and a high-quality business environment, he said.
Last week, government officials in the region gathered at a conference in the city of Huzhou in Zhejiang, to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of the integrated regional development of the Yangtze River Delta.
Xia Xingxing, a technical engineer of Alipay, China's mobile payment giant, has been working on a "shared metro pass" program in dozens of cities in the region, using digital power to accelerate regional integration.
"By using blockchain and other digital technologies, we solved the problem of cross-regional settlement and information exchange. Now citizens in 10 cities can use a QR code to commute in the region," Xia said.
Apart from the program, the region's integration also covers government services, transportation, medicare, environmental protection and other fields.
Last Friday, groundbreaking ceremonies for a high-speed railway were held simultaneously in several cities in the Yangtze River Delta region.
The 163-km railway track, allowing trains to travel at up to 350 km per hour, will open a new route connecting Shanghai with neighboring cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
It is expected to serve as a new transportation artery in the city cluster.
More than 10 railway projects are planned to be opened and started in the region this year, with the annual investment exceeding 80 billion yuan (about 11.3 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for nearly one-sixth of the total investment in China's railway system.
"The integrated and coordinated development of the region has cultivated not only a complete high-tech industrial chain, but also a large number of high-quality technical workers. All are conducive to attracting foreign investment in manufacturing and research and development," said Wen.
"This region has a unique advantage," Wen said.